How social media impacts online shopping

Gain insights into the impact of social media on customers’ online shopping journey and how to use social media as a strategy to increase online sales.

According to eMarketer, global e-commerce sales was worth 4,921 trillion US dollars in 2021, and that is expected to be doubled by the end of the year 2025. Social media is one of the top traffic sources for e-commerce businesses. The number of social network users worldwide reached 3.78 billion in the last year, which is almost half of the world’s population.

Alongside the predominance of social media in people’s daily life, it is worthwhile diving into the correlation between social media and people’s online shopping behaviour. Since social media plays a significant role in people’s daily life, is it also impacting and having a positive correlation with social media users’ online shopping behaviour? One study found that there is a positive correlation between social networks and e-commerce sales in the long run. In general, using social media does influence how people purchase from an e-commerce website. 

Many people shop online. (Source: Mediamodifier/Pixabay)

Customer shopping journey 

According to Deloitte's 2016 digital influence survey, digital impacts all steps in the customer shopping journey, though the extent of the impact varies from different industries. Before explaining how social media influences customers’ online shopping journeys, it is important to understand the customers’ shopping process. 

There are in total five steps in the customer shopping journey: awareness, consideration, decision, service, and loyalty. 

1. Awareness means that customers grow an interest in buying a certain good through advertisements, social media campaigns, and word of mouth. 

2. Consideration is the action that customers usually make before the action of purchase, which includes conducting research and comparing different prices and characteristics of a certain good. 

3. Once the decision is made, customers will finish the purchase.

4. The service that customers get later, after receiving the product, also matters in the customer journey. They can leave positive or negative comments about the product and the company on digital channels. 

5. A smooth customer journey always appeals to the customer to come back and purchase again, some of them may recommend to their peers, that is “loyalty”. 

Social media has penetrated all aspects of the customer shopping journey and has connected different steps of the shopping journey, with some networks even allowing you to shop on the platform. The social media campaign is always considered a popular way to attract people’s attention to a certain product, especially when it comes to millennials since they spend less and less time on traditional digital platforms and immerse themselves more into the atmosphere of social media like Tiktok, Instagram, and Twitter. But how does the raise of awareness and interest in certain products convert to the purchasing action?

Social media’s impact on online shopping varies by culture

Different from traditional advertisements, social media is more interactive and people can always easily comment and share. Social media, in this matter, has functioned as an information giver and a tool to strengthen feelings and ideas. Customers can find useful information regarding the product like smell and size but as well as emotions such as appreciation and dislike. 

One study has identified social media's functions in influencing online purchasing decisions and suggested that culture plays a key role in how people use social media for online purchases. The study shows us that social media campaign is more effective in collectivistic cultures like China, Singapore, and Mexico. 

Besides, brand messages emphasizing self-expression should be used in social media more in countries such as Australia, Canada, and Argentina, and group orientation and anonymity should be applied more in countries such as Germany, Belgium, and Japan. Acting regionally is the key to attracting the most customers.

Culture makes a difference in people's perception and behaviour. (Source: stokpic/Pixabay)

Social commerce

In the past, social media usually redirected people to another shopping webpage, but nowadays social commerce has become a convenient option for shoppers. Social commerce means that customers can finish the purchase action directly on social media platforms. For example, customers can purchase a dress from an Instagram shopping page or an influencer’s post. 

Social commerce helps to save time among the attention, research, comparison, and purchase. More attention has been fixated on the social media feed and more people start using social media as their online shopping platforms. Based on the survey conducted by Lucid, more than half of the participants have purchased products directly from a social media platform. Facebook and Instagram are two main platforms where people buy products. The distance between social media and online shopping is even closer in social commerce. 

More and more social media companies are considering taking shopping features into their platforms. In the year 2021 TikTok released a couple of shopping features and one of the TikTok accounts in the field of cosmetics sold out its all products and the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt gained popularity. Shopping from TikTok is expected to increase in the next few years. 

When social commerce stands in the spotlight, the question will come to which platforms and which brands win more customers. It is not only a competition between different e-commerce platforms, but also a competition between different social media platforms and accounts. 

(Source: AbsolutVision/Unsplash)

How to use social media as a strategy to increase online shopping

Since social media is too important to be ignored, how should businesses and marketers use it to increase online sales? Here are some tips which might help your online business boost:

1. Keep on exposing the brand to the public on social media and raise awareness and interest among customers. A social media campaign is never a short-term investment, but a long-term strategy. 

2. Take care of each step of the customer shopping journey. Social media has shortened the online shopping journey and made each step quicker in the overall shopping journey context. Marketers should also note if people pay attention to the product’s Call to Action (CTA) button (if there’s any) and the comments below. Eye tracking can be an effective tool in terms of attention evaluation and social media feed improvement. 

3. Use influencer marketing. Influencers usually have a large base of followers and that can be used for brand impression and directing to product purchasing. Cooperation between business and influencer is a worthwhile try if you have not yet considered it.

4. Culture is also an important factor when it comes to finding different focus groups and social media content production. For example, it is more effective to use social media as a tool to strengthen feelings and ideas rather than as a mere information provider in countries like China, Japan, and Singapore. 


Social media plays a key role in increasing online sales. It can not only redirect customers to another shopping webpage, but also with its developing features more customers are encouraged to stay on the platform for a longer time and finish the whole purchase there. Businesses and marketers should always consider social media and improve their social media feed by doing research, implementing surveys, and benefiting from technology to get more insights into the buyer’s behaviour.


May 24, 2022

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